Avondale, the pioneering estate in the Paarl winelands, is showcasing the ageing potential of biodynamic and organic wines with the limited-release of its Avondale Samsara 2009 ‘Decade Edition’.
“South African wines as a whole, and specifically organic wines, are often perceived as not being suitable for ageing,” explains Avondale proprietor Johnathan Grieve. “We want to show that wines produced with care, following organic and biodynamic principles, can improve with age just as well – and perhaps better – than their conventional counterparts.”
The name Samsara – ‘to flow on’ in Sanskrit – reflects the ongoing cycle of renewal and revitalisation that is a crucial element of Grieve’s pioneering BioLOGIC® approach to viticulture and winemaking.
Crafted from 13 unique parcels of vineyard, the Samsara Syrah 2009 also pays homage to the Avondale credo of Terra Est Vita; ‘Soil is Life’. This 100% Syrah is a perfect reflection of both the unique terroir of Avondale, and the biodynamic and organic principles that are followed in the vineyards and cellar.
Fruit for the Samsara is harvested from some of the farm’s low vigour vineyards, with soil types ranging from red sand to decomposed granite to ‘koffieklip’ ferricrete. In some vineyards the ground is up to 80 percent rock, but these low yields – as little as three tons per hectare – and farming in accordance with Grieve’s BioLOGIC principles, deliver a perfect combination of flavour concentration and fully ripened tannins in the fruit.
“The reason for the way that we farm is to get that core character, the elegance of the grape and the terroir of Avondale, into the wine,” says Grieve.
Whether it’s harvest regimes or fermentation techniques, every step in the creation of the Samsara Syrah is intended to allow the grapes time to develop their true character. In the cellar, Avondale’s devotion to truly ‘slow’ winemaking continues with the magical process of fermentation.
Avondale relies purely on naturally-occurring wild yeasts and spontaneous fermentation, a process that can take months to complete, with dozens of unique yeast strains involved in the process.
“It’s a bit like a relay race, with different yeast strains taking over at different stages. We believe that if you rely on one single strain of yeast it gives you a one-dimensional wine,” says Grieve. “This combination of wild yeasts, along with a warmer oxidative style of fermentation, builds character, elegance and complexity in the wine.”
This slow natural fermentation also preserves the core fruit character for improved maturation, while the use of whole-bunch fermentation contributes additional structure and freshness. Instead of intensive pump-overs and punch-downs, the use of skin contact for up to a month after fermentation carefully enhances both the colour and grape tannin structure of the wine.
“Oak tannins can be harsh and intrusive,” says Grieve. “Grape tannins are more elegant, and integrate better over time. For us, it’s all about ageability.”
And today, a full 10 years after what has been hailed as one of the best vintages in a generation, the Avondale Samsara 2009 ‘Decade Edition’ certainly reveals ever more of its true nature, pitched perfectly between the Old World and the New.
“From a palate perspective there’s Old World elegance, earthy notes and red fruit,” says Grieve. “But with the sunshine we enjoy in South Africa it’s wonderfully New World in the beautiful primary fruit that shines through.”
More importantly, the Avondale Samsara 2009 ‘Decade Edition’ showcases the indisputable ageing potential of Avondale’s biodynamic wines.
Not that the 2009 vintage is quite done yet.
“To be able to take a 10-year-old wine off the shelf and enjoy it immediately is an incredible proposition, but the Samsara 2009 is by no means at the end of its life,” says Grieve. “It’s drinking beautifully right now, but it still has years left to mature and improve.”
Samsara 2009 ‘Decade Edition’ is available from the farm at R350 per bottle.
What does the next decade have in store? Check back with us in 2029.